Comparison of Homicide Rates in Puerto Rico and San Juan


There have been continuous researches on the relationship between segregation and homicide across the state of Puerto Rico. This study will effectively determine if Puerto Rico has high crimes in homicide as compared to another metropolitan statistical area that is San Juan. The research will focus on a ten-year comparison that is from the year 1998 to 2008. Using various statistics it is evident that rise in homicide is wide especially when the Puerto Ricans are segregated from the whites.

Dissertation outline

Firstly, the specific objective of this study is to effectively compare the rates and trend of homicide as they are been displayed in Puerto Rico as compared to San Juan and secondly, the possible reasons for the differences in trend and rates of homicides between the two states in this discussion (Godoy, 2008).

This study will go beyond research associated to ethical issues that are ruled to have given raise to homicide. Analysis on homicides in Puerto Rico and the metropolitan statistical area San Juan will clearly try to find problems that lead to a large number of crimes that are associated to homicide. This analysis will widely explore all crimes statistic involving Puerto Rico and the state of San Juan (Rosa).

Finally, changes in segregation from 1998 to 2008 are also expected to have significant effects on the issue of homicide. Due to this issue of segregation, this study will examine the direct and indirect impact of female-headed household on homicides. It is evident that for all the Puerto Ricans are not widely associated with homicide as compared to the discussed metropolitan statistical area (Steve, 2010).

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From various statistics, it is very clear that the rates of crimes in Puerto Rico have significantly increased as compared to other metropolitan statistical areas. The various kinds of crime described in Puerto Rico from statistics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) include robbery, rape, aggravated assault and homicide. Due to this case of crimes, it is very evident that the state of Puerto Rico required immediate solutions that will assist to curb down the various form of crimes.

In introducing this topic it is important that the population being covered by the Puerto Ricans is discussed in comparison to that of San Juan state. It is important to emphasize on how the population of the Puerto Ricans differs from that of the San Juan and how this difference have contributed to the rising number of crime cases (Steve, 2010).

An empirical assessment having being done indicate that the crime being experience in Puerto Rico is largely being contributed by the following two reasons. Firstly, due to the scarcity of primary data on homicide cases which is constantly being eliminated from various analysis of crimes by the United States and secondly, Puerto Rico have been providing an examination combining the numerous crimes to the poverty being experienced by the people (Godoy, 2008).

Puerto Rico is considered as the poorest region in the United States. This has been due to the fact that their have been growth of informal industry and cases of high unemployment. The connection between unemployment, political instability, drug and substance abuse and high poverty levels has contributed to too many cases of homicide in Puerto Rico as compared to the neighboring state of San Juan (Rosa, 2005).

Data and methods

From records it is evident that most of databases that are associated to crimes in the United States have widely excluded the state of Puerto Rico. Lack of records has largely affected research on comparing the rates of homicide with other states. For instance, in the year 2006, the FBI publication on the matter regarding crimes in the USA excluded Puerto Rico in the computation of crimes figures (Steve, 2010). Not only has the department of FBI excluded Puerto Rico in their crimes statistics, the national crime victimization survey and the national violent death reporting system has also ignored Puerto Rico in their databases.

On crime statistics on Puerto Rico, I will draw information from websites which are displayed in regard to crimes level in various states. The population of the Puerto Ricans is estimated from the United States census for various years. My analysis will be restricted to 1998-2008 because it is difficult to find statistics regarding Puerto Rico in earlier years.

Comparison of homicides rates between Puerto Rico and the metropolitan statistical area of San Juan

By comparing the rate of homicide in the year 2003 to 2005between Puerto Rico and San Juan it is evident that in every three years there is the higher rate of homicide as compared to Puerto Rico. For example, in the year 2005the homicide rate in San Juan which is a metropolitan statistical area reached 21.7 percent which has been considered as the highest figure to have been reported. Comparing the rate and trend of homicide between these two states is like comparing this rate in Puerto Rico and the mainland of the United States (Rosa, 2005).

As compared to Puerto Rico the average rate of homicide always went beyond the annual mean rate but this can not be compared to San Juan whose rates are way beyond 80 percent of the mean rate. In the year 2003 to 2005 homicides in the state of San Juan had acquired an average rate of 2.36 percent whereas that of Puerto Rico was 1.32 percent. This clearly showed greater improvement in the decline of homicide cases in the state of Puerto Rico.

Homicide is described as one of the most serious crimes within the United States. It is evident that high numbers of cases of homicide in Puerto Rico is becoming modest from time to time. This evident is due to the comparison between this state and that of the metropolitan area of San Juan that’s why we can conclude the level of crimes has significantly dropped.

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Lethality of homicide in Puerto Rico and the metropolitan statistical area of San Juan

Godoy (2008) asserts that comparison on the rates and trend of homicides between Puerto Rico and San Juan can be considered as instructive and descriptive but if not carefully studied it can give rise to misleading information. The lethality ratio which is defined as rate of case of homicides divided by the trend or rate of aggravated assault plus the rate of the homicide itself. High ratios of lethality indicate that there is great inefficiency in the treatment of wounds that result from homicide.

Comparing the lethality ratio during the year 1998 to 2003 was 0.02 as compared to earlier years which was 0.03. This ratio shows decline which resulted from the growth in the quality and the number of police fighting against this crime.

Discussions about the lethality ratio between Puerto Rico and San Juan

The two finding in the above case on the lethality ratio are a merit discussion. Firstly, we are supposed to ask ourselves why the lethality of homicide in San Juan exceeds that in Puerto Rico. Secondly, why despite many cases of poverty, socioeconomic, political instability and unemployment Puerto Rico is still being displayed as a lesser involvement in homicide as compared to San Juan?

What are the possible causes for the higher ratio of lethality in Puerto Rico?

There are a number of situations that are causing Puerto Rico to be considered as one of the most dangerous places when it came to the issue about homicide. Some of these cases are:

The number of police and the quality of work they are producing

Rosa (2005) adds that in Puerto Rico the ratio of the number of citizen to that of policemen is favorably as compared to the state of San Juan. This statistics indicate that the state of Puerto Rico did not at one time faced by the shortage of policemen as compared to the mainland. Due to this number of police we cannot clearly explain the increase cases of homicide in Puerto Rico. Are this large numbers of policemen providing quality work? Are there good infrastructures to facilitate the movements of these policemen?

It is evident that there is lack of surety on whether variable such as infrastructure affected emergency response by the policemen. There have been numerous suggestions that policemen should motivate to work by modifying their pay. Comparing the police of San Juan and Puerto Rico a police earn and $34,500 and $21,300 respectively, this clearly shows that there is need for the policemen in Puerto Rico should be motivated so as to improve their service to the citizens. Not only the issue of salary is a problem but also police in this state are not highly learned. It was in the year 2002 when the training period given to the policemen in Puerto Rico was reduced so that they could start working with immediate effect (Rosa, 2005).

Puerto Rico police have not been trained on emergency medical care that is given to a patient before being taken to hospital. This has widely contributed to inadequacies in disaster preparedness within this state.

Emergency response time

From records it shows that the average response time in metropolitan statistical area of San Juan was not more than thirty-five minutes owing to traffic congestion and lack of response equipment such as ambulances. This time is less as compared to what time the state of Puerto Rico which is considered to lack emergency response equipments (Associated Press, 2008).

Medical advances

In a study carried in the year 2004 it showed that the lethality of crimes in San Juan was found to posses an inverse lethality ratio and quality of health services being provided. The presence of hospital across Puerto Rico has greatly reduced the lethality ratio by a margin of twenty-four percent. The downward trends of homicide were due to increase number of hospital in this state as compared to previous years (Godoy, 2008). To expound on this topic I used 2005 data to compare the ratio of hospitals to that of residents. Puerto Rico had a ratio of 64,213 which is thirty-eight percent higher than that of San Juan. It is ranked near the bottom when compared to all the states in United States.

Homicide among Children and Young Adults

Interpersonal violence leads to significant morbidity and mortality throughout the world. It also fronts a substantial economic burden, corresponding to 4%-5% of the gross national product in some countries. In 2003, statistics indicate that homicides ranked twelfth among the causes of death within the region. Among males, it ranked 5th while among females, it ranked 15th. On the other hand, incidences of homicides in San Juan within the same period indicated that homicide accounted for 6% of the deaths recorded, ranking 11 among all the causes of death within the areas population (Associated Press, 2008). The ranking with respect to gender demonstrated that it ranked 7th among males while among women, it ranked 17th. These finding were obtained and analyzed from death certificate information on violent of deaths of young adults and children.

The data indicates that 93% of all homicide victims were young whose age was less than 30 years. The most frequent mode of homicide was assault through firearm discharge. In San Juan, the homicide rate amplified within the same period, among males ranging from 25-29 years old (Steve, 2010).

This problem is however being addressed by the Puerto Rican government through initiating a comprehensive approach that entails boosting an integrated surveillance system for nonfatal and fatal assault, developing local prevention programs such as violence deterrence curricula in specified schools and promoting research on interpersonal violence.

According to findings on homicides among people who are below 30 years of age, obtained from the Division of Statistics of Puerto Rico Health Department by the University of Puerto Rico Centre for Hispanic Youth Violence Prevention annual data, the period running from 2003-2008 witnessed elevated rates of homicide incidences (Miraba et al, 2006). The data examined concerned sex, age group and method of homicide for instance by sharp object or by firearm discharge, for every year. The researchers also defined homicide as “death occurring from an injury purposefully inflicted by another person by another person (including legal intervention) for which the underlying cause listed on the death certificate corresponded to codes X85 -Y09, Y35, and Y89.0* of the InternationalStatistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems,10th Revision”( Miraba et al, 2006).

Associated Press (2008) points out that the determination of death rates was done in relation to county of residence of the decedent. The categories were urban versus rural applied on the basis of standards developed by the U.S Department of Agriculture in 2000 for assessment of the U.S population assessment. Intercensal population approximations for 1999-2003 acquired from the Puerto Rico Planning Board’s Census office were employed to calculate rates. The rates based on less than 20 deaths or having a variation’s coefficient of >30% are deemed unstable hence should be deduced with caution.

In Puerto Rico, the period saw a total of 3, 613 homicides, this figure entails the results obtained from San Juan. Out of this, those that happened among individuals aged <30 years of age were 2, 303, accounting for 64%. Out of this total number, 93% (2, 148) were incidences recorded among women. Male’s rate for homicide was 14 times as much as that of females, 47.7 per 100, 0000 population versus 3.5, correspondingly”. The rate of homicide was at the peak among individuals of age ranging 20-24 for both males and females (126. 8 % 7.6, correspondingly). This rate was also reflected in San Juan as the rate of homicide among women and of the same age was highest in males than in females over the same period (Associated Press, 2006).
The most frequent method of homicide that used was firearms among victims of both sexes aged <30 years (90.1 % and 65.4 of males and females respectively). The second most common method used was use of sharp objects that was represented by 21.2% of females and 5.3% of males. Among individuals aged 15-29 years, the rates of homicide were frequent within July and August. Out of this, 91.2% happened in urban areas especially in such areas like San Juan, even though just 60.3 % of victims of homicide were urban residents (Associated Press, 2008).

There were variations of homicide rates basing on age groups. In San Juan, there was slight decline in homicide incidences among individuals aged 15-19 years. In 2003, the rate was 32.1 % per 100, 000 down from 36.3% per 100, 000 2003. Generally, Puerto Rico saw this figure being reduced within the same period. The rates of homicide among individuals aged 25-29 years increased in San Juan 43.6% (from 43.0-62.3), as this trend continued to be witnessed in Puerto Rico as a whole. Within the same age group, the rates increased by 47.6% to hit 66.4 from 45.0 (Miraba et al, 2006).

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Focusing on the rates of homicide from the U.S as a whole, statistics indicate that among individuals aged 15-29 years, there was a decline from 1993 to 2003, down to 13.4 per 100, 000 from 21.6 per 100, 000 respectively (Miraba et al, 2006). In the recent past, from 2004 to 2008, a mini research carried out by the University of Puerto Rico Centre for Hispanic Youth Violence Prevention, there was an indication that individuals aged 15-29 years faced augmented incidences of rates of homicides. A revelation that the rates stand at 27.2 per 100, 000 from 18.3 per 100, 000 is somewhat shocking to some but for those who understand Puerto Rico well, there is nothing new but just confirming what is on the ground.

It is very clear that the rate of homicide is high in Puerto Rico due the fact that even though the national outlook indicates a decline within certain age groups like 15-29 years, it is the leading cause of death as opposed to nationally where homicide is the second leading cause of death. This rate has kept on being amplified from statistics obtained in 1999-2003 to the recent past (2004 to 2008). The rates stood at 49.8 to 54.1 from 1999-2003 respectively. On the other hand, the statistics indicate that homicide rates from 2004-2008 augmented from 5.1% to 59.2 respectively.

Looking at San Juan, there was however an indication that the highest rates of homicide was highest among individuals aged 25-29 years, accounting for 64% of the homicide victims (Associated Press, 2008). Persons aged less than 30 years made up 43 % of regions populations. Predominantly across San Juan and Puerto Rico in general, homicides happened among males especially in urban areas, through firearms as the commonly used method.

It has to be noted most importantly that, the two regions have witnessed a persistent high rate of homicide among young individuals. This presents a critical and urgent need for tackling potential causes of interpersonal violence (Associated Press, 2008).

There are however limitations in the findings of the levels of homicide within Puerto Rico and San Juan. First of all, the data was mostly collected from death certificates which do not have adequate information concerning perpetrator/victim relationship, perpetrator, and circumstances. This poses a great challenge to the capacity to explain certain kinds of homicides such as peer assault versus child maltreatment, together with their exceptional risk factor; sex and age distributions of homicide are probable to vary by the kind of homicide. Secondly, the data obtained lacked information concerning socioeconomic status, a vital risk factor for interpersonal violence. Lastly, the use of death certificates could misidentify some cases of homicides as other causes of death (Miraba et al, 2006).

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office (2010) explains that recent researches demonstrate that about 90% of all the recorded incidences in the whole world occurred in low-to-middle income areas especially in regions with considerable levels of poverty and income inequality among communities. The two are seen to be major contributors of family and social violence. Even though, the homicide rates are also high in San Juan, they are the highest in Puerto Rico according to a recent report asserting that the state had the highest risk of dying from homicide.

Probable contributors of youth interpersonal violence

According to findings obtained concerning risk and protective factors, there are many potential contributors of interpersonal violence among the youth in both Puerto Rico and San Juan. Most of these factors are similar but their magnitude could vary from place to place. First of all, rapid urbanization is a one of the leading contributors of interpersonal violence among the youths in the regions. The accelerated urbanization has tremendously increased the number of youths within the regions, coupled with poverty and unemployment; the rates of homicide have been seen to be on the rise (Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, 2010).

Miraba et al (2006) observe that political violence is another big contributor of homicide attacks. Politicians use youths to perpetrate violence, making youths fight among themselves and eventually incidences of violence. Additionally, neighboring environments have contributed to violence within the regions that in the end result to homicide. Other factors are drug trafficking, organized criminal activities and illegal drug use. Even this is the case in both regions; San Juan has displayed individual factors such as exposure to aggression, sex or age and house hold factors like family violence’s history or household values that promote violent solutions to disagreement on interpersonal violence. A comprehension of these factors in both San Juan and Puerto Rico should help in the development programs for violence prevention for the respective communities (Associated Press, 2008).

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Efforts to address the problem

The governments of Puerto Rico and San Juan have initiated multiple efforts to handle the interpersonal violence problem. From the year 2000, the Centerfor Hispanic Youth Violence Prevention has been involved in development, realization, and assessment of approaches to handle violence amid Hispanic youth using the public health perspective (Godoy, 2008). Similarly, San Juan has greatly attempted to create awareness on prevention of youth violence through activities such as carrying out research on protective and risk factors, teaching education and health professionals in competencies of youth violence prevention strategies (for instance, identifying at-risk youth). Additional efforts include initiating an evidence-based curriculum for prevention of violence for cultural suitability and assessing its implementation amid students in high-risk communities.

The Puerto Rican government is determined to minimize the incidences of homicide within the region. Consequently, it has come up with strategies to handle the problem. Such strategies include initiating amplified police surveillance within high-crime hoods, issuing the World Report on Violence and Health to government health institutions and community leaders, allotting resources to promote forensic investigations and fitting video equipment to check streets and keep law enforcement on the alert to criminal activity (Miraba et al, 2006). Furthermore, the Puerto Rico Health Department and the Commission for Violence Prevention (governor-appointed) are planning and implementing a pilot project for surveillance that combines the criminal justice and public health data on violent deaths, particularly those among young adults and adolescents. The obtained findings will be used for to direct future programs to reduce and prevent violent deaths in the region.


Studies indicate Puerto Rico continues to experience high rates of crime and consequently high rates of homicide. San Juan on the other hand, also has high rates of crime rates. Researches indicate that Puerto Rico does not only record high rates in rape cases, robbery, assault but also homicide. In general terms, San Juan has the highest rates of homicide as compared to Puerto Rico as observed after every three years. On the hand, it is evident that Puerto Rico has the highest rates of homicide among the children and young adults. The common method of homicide is normally through firearms in both regions.

The major causes of homicide in Puerto Rico are political violence, drug use, rapid urbanization, political violence. These are the same factors in San Juan even though the magnitudes differ. There are individual factors like family beliefs concerning interpersonal violence, sex or age. Finally in both regions the government is determined to end elevated homicide through employing strategies such as awareness creation, and teaching all the stakeholders on the efforts to prevent violent behavior.

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